I'm Almost Anxious and This Is My Story
The True Reason I'm an Advocate for Mental Health
Years ago I had a vision: a world in which people who were like me would never have to live like me. I mean that every person that dealt with a mental illness would never have to experience the stigma, the judgement, and the discouragement that comes with being diagnosed. Everybody that suffer mentally like me would only do just that.
People like me already have their bodies, their beings, and their soul telling them that "They're different," "They're freaks," "Give up," they don't need the world to shut them out too. The world shut me out. My friends dropped me, my family judged me, and I doubted me. But, why?
Because "depression is all in your head," "anxiety is just an excuse for low self-esteem," and "mental illnesses are excuses for being weak;" the entire stigma surrounding mental health flourished back when I was diagnosed. There were no Twitter hashtags promoting talk about mental health. Suicides weren't publicized broadly, and if they were, it was with disdain. Research was primarily focused on lung cancer caused by tobacco products and the pollution epidemic, and funding was not provided to research on mental health. People who attended college to be psychologists were ridiculed for a lack of judgement. "There wasn't a job market for therapists because mental illness isn't real."
No one ever told me that what was going on with my body was natural. Even the physician who diagnosed me with a vague description of depression only did so after not having a solid diagnosis for anything else. She patted me on the back, handed me a piece of paper, and sent me off to the pharmacy for a medication that I was take in lieu of the fact I didn't really understand the illness I was taking it for. I wouldn't even begin to understand my diagnosis until about five years later.
During the five years of ignorance, I doubted that what was going on with me was real. I felt weak, powerless. I felt as if what was happening to me was all my fault and that I could control it, if only I weren't so weak. For five years, I was my own worst enemy; I was ashamed of my condition, and very secretive about it.
This would change when in May of 2016, my sister, who is the single strongest person I have ever met in my life, had a mental collapse and almost took her own life. This woman, my best friend, had supported me throughout my illness and had on many occasions rescued me from my mother's negative grasp. Through her support, I couldn't help but feel that she wasn't convinced herself about mood disorders, but she knew I needed her. I mean, I guess not even I was entirely convinced about depression, even though I had no explanation for what I was going through. On that rainy day in May in middle Tennessee, I received the call that would change my life forever. I finally believed in depression.
A whirlwind of things occurred at this point. I believed in me. Everything I had gone through was real. I believed in mental illness. There was no way that I was just that horrible of a person. I believed in a way out. If there's a way into something, there has to be a way out. But most importantly, I finally believed I wasn't alone. I just watched the main reason I doubted my condition, end up not only just like me, but worse. I watched the person I aspired to be, that I believed I should be, fall all the way down to my level and as selfish as it sounds, it gave me perspective. It also opened up a whole new can of worms.
There were uncomfortable conversations had among my family, and for once I wasn't the center of attention. In fact, for once I was the strong one. My brother came out about his anger disorder, and my sister confronted my mother about her bi-polar disorder. My entire family consisted of a Trail Mix of mood disorders, and I was the M&M. I was the person who had been honest with myself for years. I was the person, who even though I kept my illness low profile, that dealt with judgement, the rumors, the treatments. Suddenly all eyes were on me for answers, but I had none. These people who were looking to me for help were the same people that doubted me for five years. I hadn't figured out the answers, because I hadn't figured out the question.
So it was then that the true journey began, and with this new approach, new ideas bloomed. First stop, I had to figure out what I could do to get better. Second stop, I had to be confident in myself and my story. Third stop, I had to use my story for change. I had to change the way mental health was viewed or the same thing that happened to my sister and me, was going to happen to others. But how?
Honestly, I have no clue. I have ideas, and hope that they'll work, but I have no clue how to do it in the long-run, and that's okay. I'm trying, and that's more than I did for five years of my life. I'm writing this blog post here in hopes of reaching an audience. I'm making videos about my daily struggles, and traumatic experiences I've gone through for YouTube. I'm using Twitter as an outreach service to find people like me. I've developed a website as a safe haven for the mentally weary. My voice, my life is out there, vulnerable, in hopes that those who need to see people like me, will. I found confidence in who I am, depression, anxiety, and all. I am proud of who I am, and who I may become.
I yearn for every single person to know that they are not alone, that they are loved and they are accepted. They may be different, but that makes them incredibly valuable to this world. I've seen a shift in stigma around mental health and I still hope to mold it even further. I may not be the best, but we all start somewhere. To anyone reading this from a social media page that I run, I hope this gave you more insight to who I am, and what my purpose is. To anyone just meeting me, nice to meet you. I'd love to hear your story, your reaction, and your purpose. I can't do any of this without you guys. Let's change the world.